DAILY enactments of famous speeches from Irish historical figures are being held at Glasnevin Cemetery during the months of July, August and September.
During July renowned actor, Jack Moylett, will deliver Pádraig Pearse's famous graveside oration for O’Donovan Rossa every day at 2.30pm as part of the regular graveyard tour.
Dressed in the uniform of a 1915 volunteer and standing on the very spot where Pearse first spoke his famous words Glasnevin Trust Historian, Shane MacThomais says the speech is a great opportunity for anybody with an interest in Irish history to experience the power of the oration.
Old Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa died in the USA on June 29, 1915. His widow, a Fenian herself, was determined that he should lie in Irish soil and after a short struggle she obtained permission to take him back to the country of his birth.
When Tom Clarke received the news from America he saw the potential support that could be aroused in Irish people for independence and sent a telegram simply stating: “Send his body home at once”.
Clarke immediately sprang into action, organising a funeral committee that was to include some men and women who would go on to be household names within a year.
Chief Marshall for the funeral was Tomás MacDonagh, who worked very closely with Clarke on plans for the procession to Glasnevin Cemetery.
James Connolly and Arthur Griffith sat on the funeral committee alongside Constance Markievicz, Major John MacBride, Cathal Brugha, Edward Daly, Brian O’Higgins and Eamon DeValera.
Poignantly, the committee itself was to have a tragic destiny. MacDonagh, Connolly, Clarke, MacBride and Daly would all be dead within the year, executed in Kilmainham Gaol.
On the day of the funeral, special trains came to Dublin from all over the country and the funeral cortege was a grand affair with pipe bands and armed units of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army following the hearse and the mourning coach.
At Glasnevin Cemetery it is reported that some 70,000 people managed to get within earshot.
After the funeral mass, said by Father O’Flanagan, there was to be one graveside speaker only. The somewhat unknown Pádraig Pearse had been Tom Clarke’s choice to deliver the oration. Many on the committee had disputed this but Clarke knew his man and insisted that he was the one.
Pearse spent days and nights in his Connemara cottage, writing and re-writing the speech until he felt it was ready. Having shown the speech to nobody, Pearse, in the uniform of an Irish Volunteer officer, took his notes from his pocket, stood at the end of the grave and gave what was to become one of the most famous funeral orations in history.
Pearse’s finely crafted words not only caught the zeitgeist but were to resonate for generations to come.
“It’s fantastic to hear it spoken on the same spot it was spoken 97 years ago. You can read it anywhere but when you hear it being delivered it sends a shiver down your spine,” said Mr MacThomais.
The Pearse speech is part of Glasnevin Trust’s programme for summer, which will include re-enactments of speeches by DeValera, Collins, O’Connell and Parnell. The programme began last month with veteran actor Ger O’Leary playing Jim Larkin. To witness the re-enactments contact the cemetery museum for bookings.